It is no secret that technology has had a major impact on the music industry. The arrival of the MP3 in the mid-90’s triggered the rumblings of a disruption that only grew stronger when Napster showed us how to share music. Together, these technologies changed the music landscape forever.
At the time, many in the music industry were ill prepared to understand the benefits that technology could bring, let alone to capitalize on it. Many artists and labels perceived it as a threat to intellectual property. Other artists and visionaries saw it as a way to level the playing field, to get their music out in the world without the constraints of a record label. Record labels, failing to grasp the importance of this new medium, deemed music downloads and file swapping illegal and turned consumers into criminals, and resisted building a new business model. An astute Apple jumped in and developed iTunes. Others followed. A new trend toward social technologies and media emerged and spread. Mayhem reigned. The result was a disrupted music industry, certainly, but also a very confused one.
That rise of social media and its impact on our lives may have had a bigger hand in shaping the post-90’s future of the music business than we realize. Today’s digitized music industry and society’s sharing culture have forced fresh technology innovations that may ultimately reap great benefit for artists and consumers alike.
With the rise of smartphones, think about the availability of immediate live audio and video. It got me thinking, “what if we could offer consumers a way to relive a concert experience at their convenience by providing them with an easy way to purchase high-quality content while ensuring that artists, record labels and venue operators could benefit as well?”
Anyone who has attended a concert in the past five years has seen the evolution from lighters to cell phones in the hands of audience members. Music fans are recording their own poor-quality audio and video at shows so they can either relive or share the experience – and they’re probably doing both.
According to a 2012 Hollywood Reporter poll, more than 70 percent of respondents listen to an artist based on what a friend posted on a social networking site, and according to Gizmodo, 210,000 years of music has been played on Facebook alone as of 2012. Clearly, these bragging rights are important – for artists and fans alike.
Technology now exists that makes this a reality, and Lively is one example of a company that provides a solution through its free mobile app. With backend software, Lively’s platform captures and disseminates professional-quality audio and video, and a licensing agreement protects the artists’ rights while allowing consumers to purchase and share content without fear of reprisal.
For those who appreciate music, the live concert experience is unlike any other. With a technology partner like Lively, fans can finally put down their cell phones and enjoy the show. The technology also makes it possible for artists to engage with fans in an entirely new way by providing professional-quality live content for purchase after the show. Fans who are unable to attend their favorite band’s concert, for instance, can still feel close to the music and the artist by downloading professional-quality content provided through Lively, rather than trying to enjoy the experience through poor quality video shot on their friends’ smartphone.
Advances in technology have already opened doors for fledgling artists by helping them create and sell their own recordings using solutions such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, but, until now, capturing and sharing the live experience has not been optimal. This new opportunity caught the attention of country superstar Keith Urban who, along with Yahoo’s “Ram Country Live!” partnered with Lively to bring exclusive live audio recordings to fans via the app. Portugal. The Man also recently made audio and video content from their sold out show at Terminal 5 in New York City available exclusively via Lively.
When this wave of digital disruption first began, it put a dent in industry revenue. The record labels’ refusal to address digital downloads contributed mightily to a current global music industry that is less than half its pre-digital size, down from $38 billion in 2001 to $16.5 billion in 2013, according to Forrester analyst James McQuivey. It was bad for labels, it was bad for bands and it was bad for fans. How, then, to pick up the pieces?
Revenue for artists and labels may not return to what they were pre-digitization, but both can generate incremental revenue if they’re willing to experiment with new technologies. With the Lively platform, for example, revenues are split. After the app stores retain their 30 percent revenue share, artists receive approximately 49 percent of the revenue from downloads. Additionally, artists and their management receive valuable visibility and market insights through download analytics and tracking data that they can apply to their own promotion and marketing efforts.
Venue operators can participate as well with opportunities to become “Lively-enabled” and to negotiate mutually beneficial contracts with the touring artists’ management to co-brand shows that will benefit both promotionally and financially. As the technology spreads, consumers may likely seek out venues that are capable of providing the ultimate show merchandise, in the form of high-quality digital “memories.”
The rise of technology continues to force rapid, ongoing changes within the music industry and these changes create opportunities for fans, artists and the industry itself, to engage in new and more fulfilling ways. Digital disruption of the music business is unavoidable, but so long as artists and industry players remember that this is a business built on the appreciation of music, they’ll realize that access to live music doesn’t have to stop after the venue goes dark.